Friday, March 03, 2006

Kids Learn to Break Cycle of Addiction

Kids Learn to Break Cycle of Addiction

New York—Many children end up homeless because of parental substance abuse; studies show these kids are themselves at high risk of drug or alcohol dependency.

The Dallas-based nonprofit Rainbow Days works to break this cycle by giving homeless and nonhomeless kids individualized life-skills training and support in their schools, communities and homes, Cathy Brown, Rainbow Day’s executive director, tells attendees at an Institute for Children and Poverty conference.

Rainbow Days’ Family Connection program works with kids in small groups to help them deal with decision-making, family, friends and school. Each group gives kids age-appropriate ways to deal with substance-abuse issues.

Program participants also enroll in short-term university camps, summer camps and art groups, where they develop life skills and a strong conviction against using drugs or alcohol. Parents and guardians can participate.

Part of Rainbow Day’s strategy is giving children community-service obligations. Brown says people come to her, asking incredulously, “You have homeless children doing community service?” Brown’s reply: “You bet.” Over 32,000 children and youth have enrolled in Rainbow Days-sponsored programs since its inception, Sandi McFarland, a training administrative specialist tells CYF.

How Rainbow Days got started

After coming to terms with her own alcoholism 19 years ago, Brown realized that her young daughter was also at risk. Using her experience as a teacher and counselor, Brown started working with a small group of children, including her daughter, affected by parental addiction. Rainbow Days became incorporated in 1982.

Soon after, Brown began working with children at a Dallas shelter. Since then, Rainbow Days has spread to homeless shelters across the city.

The program has been honored by the federal Housing & Urban Development Dept.

Some 80% of Rainbow Days’ $2.5 million operating budget comes from federal grants; the rest comes from sources such as the Texas Commission on Alcohol & Drugs, the Texas Criminal Division and the United Way.

Info: Brown, 214/887-0726;

Written by Pamela Appea
Children & Youth Funding Report
Community Development Publications
April 18, 2001